A pair of brilliant British scientists, a troubled woman searching for answers along the Pacific Crest Trail and a drunken curmudgeon turned unlikely father figure are among the diverse characters populating the buzzed-about movies at this year's Toronto International Film Festival.
With the festival winding down Sunday, here's a look at which films are getting noticed and when they're coming to a theater near you.
Bill Murray has been the toast of the festival, which declared Sept. 5 to be Bill Murray Day. The 63-year-old actor has earned strong notices for his performance in first-time feature filmmaker Theodore Melfi's dramatic comedy about a cranky Vietnam vet who finds meaning in his life while looking after his neighbor's 12-year-old boy.
The Weinstein Co. will release "St. Vincent" on Oct. 10.
"The Theory of Everything"
Director James Marsh's biopic about the theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking (Eddie Redmayne), his relationship with his first wife (Felicity Jones) and his diagnosis with ALS has propelled relative unknown Redmayne ("Les Miserables") to the front of the Oscar race for best actor.
Focus Features will release the film Nov. 7.
One of the most talked-about performances at the festival has been Julianne Moore's turn in "Still Alice," a drama about a brilliant linguistics professor whose life is turned upside down when she begins suffering from early-onset Alzheimer's. The film is co-written and co-directed by Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland, based on Lisa Genova's bestselling novel.
"Still Alice" is seeking U.S. distribution.
Writer-director-star Chris Rock sparked a bidding war with his comedy about a comedian (Rock) trying to reinvent himself as a serious actor while preparing to marry his reality-star fiancee (Gabrielle Union) and being interviewed by a New York Times journalist (Rosario Dawson).
Paramount Pictures acquired "Top Five" for worldwide distribution; a release date has yet to be announced.
"The Imitation Game"
Toronto's other British-genius biopic tells the story of the mathematician, cryptanalyst and computer scientist Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch), who helped hasten the end of World War II by cracking the Nazis' Enigma code. The film also explores Turing's life as a closeted gay man at a time when homosexuality was criminalized.
The Weinstein Co. will release "The Imitation Game" on Nov. 21.
Director Jean-Marc Vallee's previous movie, "Dallas Buyer's Club," won acting Oscars for Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto, and the interest level has been high for Reese Witherspoon's portrayal of a woman on a transformative 1,100-mile solo hike. Initial reviews of the film have been somewhat mixed.
Fox Searchlight Pictures will release "Wild" on Dec. 5.
"Daily Show" host Jon Stewart took a three-month hiatus from his TV duties to make his feature writing and directing debut on this political drama about journalist Maziar Bahari's 118-day imprisonment in Iran. The film, which stars Gael Garcia Bernal, has garnered solid reviews. If its commercial prospects are somewhat limited (this is a political-prisoner movie, after all), "Rosewater" has a shot at emerging as a dark-horse awards contender.
Open Road Films will release the film Nov. 7.
After starring in "End of Watch," "Prisoners" and "Enemy," Jake Gyllenhaal's latest gonzo role is that of a nighttime crime-scene videographer in the underbelly of Los Angeles. Gyllenhaal lost 30 pounds to get into character, which calls to mind McConaughey's similar feat for "Dallas Buyers Club" — though "Nightcrawler" is probably too out-there to resonate with awards voters in the same way.
"Nightcrawler" will hit theaters on Halloween from Open Road.
"While We're Young"
Writer-director Noah Baumbach's follow-up to "Frances Ha" stars Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts as a middle-aged couple whose world is upended when a disarming young duo (Adam Driver and Amanda Seyfried) enter their lives. Commercial and awards prospects for the well-received film could depend on when it's released, and with how much of a marketing push.
The New York-based indie distributor A24 has acquired "While We're Young," with a release date yet to be announced.
"Love & Mercy"
Written by Oren Moverman and directed by Bill Pohlad, this unique biopic tackles the story of Beach Boys co-founder Brian Wilson from two sides: as a young man, played by Paul Dano, and an older artist, played by John Cusack.
Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions have acquired North American rights to "Love & Mercy." A release date has not been announced.
"Time Out of Mind"
Another Moverman movie, this one directed by him as well, "Time Out of Mind" stars Richard Gere as a homeless man wandering the streets of New York and trying to reconnect with his estranged daughter. Gere's committed, transformative performance at this stage of his distinguished career could appeal to awards voters, though the film does not yet have a release date.
"Time Out of Mind" is seeking U.S. distribution.
"Tales of the Grim Sleeper"
British documentarian Nick Broomfield's film delves into the chilling case of the South Los Angeles serial killer known as "The Grim Sleeper," so named because of the long period of inactivity between some of his crimes. The film is a portrait of both Lonnie Franklin Jr., the man charged with the murders, and the community he terrorized.
HBO Documentary Films has acquired U.S. rights to "The Grim Sleeper," which is to debut on HBO in 2015.
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